By Lucas / Last Updated October 28, 2022

The error: You cannot format this volume

“I was trying to format system drive C like I formatted other partitions after double clicking This PC on my Windows 10. Right clicked the C drive and selected Format…only to get following prompt: You cannot format this volume. It contains the version of Windows that you are using. Formatting this volume could cause your computer to stop working. I’m confused. It offers a Formatting disks and drives FAQ link, after I clicked into, Windows gives me many Q & A and a lot of terminologies. I cannot understand that clearly. What should I do to delete this system drive?”

You cannot format this volume

It is a helpful post on system drive formatting in Windows 10. In fact, that is a formatting error that can be found in any Windows OS, Windows 8, 7, XP, and Vista. Other similar formatting related errors in Windows would be: “Windows cannot format the system partition on this disk” and “Windows was unable to complete the format in Disk Management”, and “System partition is not allowed to be formatted, format failed” in Diskpart.

Why you cannot format system drive within Windows?

According to Microsoft, that is a safety feature so that you cannot delete Windows by accident. The system partition contains the boot files that are required to boot for Windows, such as boot.ini, Ntldr, Bootmgr, and BCD.

On the other hand, system drive C is an active partition that is set as the bootable partition that contains the operating system. Only one partition on each hard drive can be set as an active partition and the partition cannot be formatted or deleted within Windows environment. That implies you can do formatting without Windows environment.

Well, how do you get out of the Windows environment? Actually, Windows gives you an option with a Windows installation disc. Don’t worry, even if you don’t have a Windows installation disc, because another simple way about fixing you cannot format this volume error is illustrated followed by.

How to fix you cannot format this volume in Windows?

If you’re good at practical operations, you can uninstall the disk that contains operating system from your machine and connect it to another computer as secondary storage. Then, do formatting directly under Windows environment. Besides, you have two more specific ways to format Windows system drive. Let’s get it closer.

Format system volume using Windows installation disc

To format your computer’s hard disk entirely, you can turn to Windows installation disc. Please note that all data on the disk will be lost, so does the operating system. Meaning, you cannot boot from this disk any more after formatting. Be cautious. Back up files before reformatting if any.

1. To fix you cannot format a system volume, shut down your machine, and insert Windows installation disc. Boot from the disc. Then, you’ll see the installation interface. Choose a language according to your situation. Click Next to continue.

Installation interface

2. Click on Install now at next prompt and you’ll get into the following page, where to install. Choose the disk that contains your system drive C and press Format. During the Setup process, you can repartition and reformat your hard disk, or maybe reinstall Windows.

Where to install

Tips: by pressing Shift + F10 key combinations, you can lift command prompt to format disk in CMD.

That is quite easy to solve unable to format C problem. However, as mentioned, Windows installation disc will erase all files and programs on the disk. What if you want to format system volume only? Besides, for a user who has no Windows installation disc, the above method is not doable. Fortunately, you can complete system formatting with a free formatting tool.

Format system partition in Windows PE mode

AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional will help you solve you cannot format this volume trouble easily. Specifically, you’ll create a bootable USB drive or CD/DVD disc with WinPE ISO file and AOMEI Partition Assistant installed. Next, boot from the bootable device and perform formatting. You can choose format only system drive or format the entire disk. Free download and install AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional Demo to have a try.

Download Demo Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

1. Insert a USB drive or CD/DVD disc into your computer. Run AOMEI Partition Assistant. Click on Make Bootable Media to create a WinPE based bootable device. Follow the wizard to complete creating.

Make Bootable Media

All data on USB drive or CD/DVD will be erased. Backup files if necessary. You can export WinPE ISO file and make bootable media with other devices.

2. Shutdown your computer and boot it from the created boot device. You’ll find AOMEI Partition Assistant right after you log in. Start it and right click the system volume. Choose Format Partition from the given list.

Format C drive

3. Edit partition label, and choose file system and cluster size. NTFS is used for the system by default. Click OK.

Choose system

4. Review the result and click Apply and then Proceed to start formatting.



  • The formatted disk won’t be bootable after the above operations. You can install new system on that disk or use it for other purposes.

  • The tool also supports quick partition hard drive after formatting.


Formatting is actually easy work as long as you know how to operate correctly. System formatting is not recommended for common users, that’s why you encounter you cannot format this volume error in Windows 8/10/Vista/7/XP. Be sure that you know what you’re doing.

Except for formatting system drive without Windows environment, AOMEI Partition Assistant does many other helpful jobs. For example, you can move OS to the C drive to overwrite all data if system migration is what you want.